PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – We’re letting the cat out of the bag about a hidden gem in Pittsburgh’s West End neighborhood. There’s a unique thrift shop on Wabash Street.
This isn’t your typical thrift store. Frank, the shop cat, greets shoppers with some meows.
Every penny raised helps this friendly guy and other animals who are rescued by Animal Advocates. The nonprofit is made up of volunteers who believe life is better with rescue cats and dogs.
“We’re an all-volunteer animal rescue organization so every dollar that we raise can go directly to the cats and dogs that we help. And with that, the volunteers who donate their time to the organization are really the heart of our organization,” said Matt Neft, board member of Animal Advocates.
The nonprofit has between 50 and 60 volunteers. Some of them run the thrift shop, located on Wabash Street in the West End.
It’s full of items that people dropped off to be re-sold. There are one-of-a-kind collectibles, home goods, unique clothing, and pet products.
Just upstairs, kitties roam around in the cat room and on the “catio.”
It’s believed Sigmund Freud once said, “Time spent with cats is never wasted,” and Animal Advocates’ volunteers, like Raymond Pfeifer, agree with that.
“We come a couple days a week, we’re one of the many volunteers that come here and make sure that everything’s taken care of,” Pfeifer said.
The rescue has lots of cats in foster homes.
“My wife, Kathleen, and I had two cats for 13, and 14 years and sadly they passed away. We stopped by here just to check out the place and we fell in love with it, we saw the work that they’re doing, we started fostering and we fostered over the years. We fostered two, and we’re what you call foster failures because we ended up adopting both,” Pfeifer said.
Animal Advocates also has foster homes for dogs. Neft said they try to find the perfect home for every cat and dog.
“We get to know the animals as we come visit, take care of them, and learn their backstories so whenever we do see them get to go home to that perfect match is just a very good rewarding feeling,” said Neft.
Finding a home was a long process for Biscuit who came in as a puppy with a congenital disorder and had to have multiple surgeries.
“He needed a little bit of special care so just a couple of months ago we were able to find the perfect home for him, he now lives out in central [Pennsylvania] on a big farm,” Neft said.
Animal Advocates was created in 1984 as an animal advocacy group that raised awareness for animals’ rights. It purchased the building on Wabash Street in 1992 and opened the thrift shop two years later then started bringing in felines.
The rescue runs a senior-to-senior foster program. Senior animals provide companionship and love to senior citizens, and the nonprofit covers the costs.
They always need more people to volunteer as cat caretakers, thrift shop workers, and fosters, especially for dogs.
“We deal mostly with cats, who are helpless, they’ve been abandoned, some have sadly been abused, and we’re able to socialize with them, get them so they’re comfortable around other people and other cats and hopefully we’ve been very successful in getting them into fosters or get them adopted,” Pfeifer said.
In the stairwell, there’s a wall with photos of the cuties who were adopted and the kitties still waiting for their fur-ever home, including Frank the shop cat who loves playing with catnip toys.
We cat lovers believe the best things in life are rescued, and all you need is love and a cat!
“It makes your life better; it makes the animals’ life much better and it’s just a very rewarding experience to have a companion animal living in your home that you can just hang out with,” Neft said.
“When you come home they’re there, the best thing about cats, we think, is that they sleep with you, it just makes a house a happier place, the things that they get into, they’re amusing, they’re entertaining, so I think it’s very fulfilling, start out with a foster and you never know, they work their way right into your heart,” Pfeifer said.
Donations to Animal Advocates can be made on their website.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the rescue can submit an application online.
People who want to adopt can see a list of their adoptable pets on Animal Advocates’ website.
The thrift shop is open Mondays through Fridays from noon to 3 and Saturdays from noon to 4. They also sell items on eBay and Poshmark.
The nonprofit just started a new online fundraising auction on Friday. It runs until November 12th.
The silent auction includes baskets full of pet products, household items, and more.